Hiller Instinct: Bonus or Bribe
The Hiller Instinct: Hiller Instinct: Bonus or Bribe
With year three of the war in Iraq about to begin, the U.S. Army is stretched by a shortage of soldiers. So the army is kicking off a $100 million ad campaign...and offering its biggest bonuses ever to woo new recruits: up to $17,000 for a three-year enlistment and up to $20,000 for four or more.
Sergeant Mark Ashley, an army recruiter, says the money matters. "You put it to them as, okay, can you see yourself driving this car? Can you see yourself taking your girlfriend out whenever you want and not having to worry about how much you're going to spend? It plays a great deal into it."
But future soldiers in Quincy say it's about duty, not dollars...
"If we have to go to make sure that people in this country stay free, then I'll be willing to do that," Gerard Giblin, a new recruit, said.
Chris Bolter, another newly-enlisted soldier, agreed. "If there was no bonus, I would have enlisted, yes."
Sergeant Ashley isn't sold. "I think that there is the patriotism," he said. "But I think that bonuses are still in the back of their head. I know it would be in mine," he added.
Which makes some critics of the big bonuses compare them to bribes...
"I'm deeply concerned right now that low income children would be more apt to be attracted to the bonuses that the military has offered than children from upper income families," said Paul Dunphy, an education policy analyst.
And students at well-off Wellesley High School said Dunphy might be right.
Britney Abbott, a senior at Wellesley High, said, "I don't feel like that's a path I would want to take. I've already thought of other opportunities."
"You can't pay me enough money to go and die for a cause I don't believe in," said Sam Pattillo, who is also a senior at the school.
Captain Paul Cole, an army recruiter, said money can change those kinds of beliefs. "In those cases, no amount of money is going to make them change their minds."
But Captain Cole said new soldiers are coming from all income levels, and he compares the army's coin-to-join with Pedro Martinez' signing bonus from the New York Mets.
"We're offering an incentive to an individual who has certain skills and talents, to come on to our team," Cole said.
Using money to attract recruits is simply supply and demand... and given the potential dangers ahead for new soldiers, it's tough to argue the army's bonuses could ever be too big.
In truth, they're the price for an all-volunteer army - premiums America prefers to a draft.